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How to Support Your Child's Gut Health

How to Support Your Child's Gut Health

As a parent, there’s nothing more important to you than your child’s health and wellbeing. Since our gut microbiome houses over 70% of our immune systems, paying attention to your child’s gut health is key. When gut health suffers, so does overall health.   

Board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, and the team at Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, specialize in diagnosing and treating issues and conditions that affect the health of the gut microbiome. 

We want to help you and your child enjoy optimal health, so we’ve created this post with information about healthy gut microbiomes and our tips on how you can support your child’s gut health.  

Understanding your child’s gut microbiome

Our bodies have trillions of fungi, viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic organisms working together as our gut microbiome. Most of them are found in the cecum, a pocket-like structure in the large intestine. 

The gut microbiome plays a very important role in human health. Together with your immune cells, the gut microbiome helps control the immune system and how the body responds to infection and other issues. 

It also plays a role in digesting fiber, which helps prevent certain chronic diseases, like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, and works to help your child maintain a healthy weight. In addition, the gut microbiome affects the central nervous system and brain health—including mental health.  

On the other hand, an unhealthy gut microbiome increases your child’s risk of developing chronic and potentially serious health conditions, including but not limited to issues like:

When your child’s gut health is poor, they may experience symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, indigestion, and abdominal pain. Be sure to talk to your provider if you notice these signs of poor gut health. 

How to help your child enjoy good gut health

Fortunately, the things that are good for the gut microbiome are also good for your child’s overall health. Here’s a look at some of the things you can do to help support your child’s gut health and promote overall wellness:

Encourage a healthy, fiber-rich diet

It’s no secret that for kids to grow up healthy and strong, they need a well-balanced, healthy diet. By encouraging your child to eat a whole-foods, mostly plant-based diet, you also help their gut health. 

This is because eating a variety of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and plant proteins, like legumes and beans, ensures your child eats lots of fiber. Fiber promotes the growth of diverse and beneficial microbes in the gut, which are key to a healthy gut microbiome.

Processed foods, low-fiber meat and dairy, and refined sugar all have the opposite effect on gut health and can trigger digestive health issues like constipation. Be sure to talk to your child about eating them sparingly or not at all.   

Avoid unnecessary antibiotics

When your child takes antibiotics, it can disrupt the natural balance of “good” and “bad” microbes in the gut. This can negatively impact your child’s immune system and cause digestive distress. 

There’s no doubt that sometimes antibiotics are necessary. Just be sure to only use antibiotics when necessary and avoid using them for mild ear or sinus infections and viral illnesses, like colds, influenza, or COVID-19. 

Help your child stay active and hydrated

Your child needs to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep their digestive system running smoothly. Without enough water, children can get constipated and are more likely to get sick, which can upset the gut microbiome balance. 

In addition, be sure your child stays active and gets plenty of opportunities for physical play—especially outdoors and with pets. Research shows exposure to animals and soils promotes a healthy mix of beneficial bacteria in children’s digestive systems.  

Have more questions about your child’s gut health? Get personalized advice on supporting a healthy gut microbiome by scheduling an appointment online or over the phone at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida. 

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